How To Write Headlines That Leave Your
Reader Begging For
Headlines are everywhere, not only in the newspaper. They are the subject line in an e-mail, the first line in an ad, the introductory copy in a press release, website section headers and link introductions. They are those first few golden words you place under your reader’s eyeballs, enticing them
into wanting to read the rest of your message. Here are some tips to follow on crafting one so that it grabs attention and MAKES the reader want to know more.
A good headline answers the question, “Why should I read this message?” And most important of all, it must convey to the reader a benefit. David Ogilvy, advertising genius, said this about the power of headlines: "On the average, 5 times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money."
What makes for a good headline?
1. It offers the reader a reward for reading it.
2. Triggers a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand.
3. Presents a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head.
4. Has an element of intrigue to drive the prospect into your opening copy.
5. Creates a sense of urgency.
6. Conveys the idea that the main benefit is somehow unique.
7. Does all of the above in an ultra-specific way.
Not every headline will address all 7 points, however, for a headline to be successful it must fulfill points 1 and 7.
Writing a headline takes time and planning. Here are some tips on how to craft successful ones:
Don’t try to tantalizing the reader or mislead.
Keep it short. Think of your headline as a bikini. It doesn’t need to cover everything — just the important parts.
Write it with a subject, verb and object.
Be alert to words with different and sometimes opposite meanings. You do not have the luxury to qualify or
Be sure none of the words contain any kind of sexual innuendo.
Write in the active voice using precise, colorful, transitive verbs to give punch to the message.
Don’t try to be cute, such as writing: Deaf man gets new hearing.
Use humor or cleverness to invite readers in, not drive them away.
Make sure the reader will not react with a head scratching, "Huh?"
Avoid jargon or terms familiar only to an in-group.
Stay away from clichés.
Don’t do word plays on people's names. For example, if a man named Moses wrote a book about Jeeps,
the headline "Moses wrote the bible on Jeeps" would be in poor taste.
Give your headline a “voice” appropriate to the content it introduces.
Here are 9 headline categories that compel action and will help you decide how to format yours:
1. Direct Headlines go straight to the heart of the matter stating just the facts.
Pure Silk Blouses – 30 Percent Off states the selling proposition directly.
2. An Indirect Headline takes a more subtle approach. It uses curiosity to raise a question in the reader’s mind, which the body copy answers.
3. A News Headline is a short blurb of what the news is all about. Product announcements, an improved version, or even a content scoop are examples:
Introducing The New XBox or My Exclusive Interview With Steve Jobs.
4.The How to Headline promises solutions, etc. and is the motivator for the reader to delve deeper. An example would be…the title of this article!
5. A Question Headline must do more than simply ask a question, it must be a question that, the reader can empathize with or would like to see answered. For example:
Do You Close The Bathroom Door Even When You’re The Only One Home? Or an often used one that holds a promise:
Do You Want to Get Rich With An Online Storefont?
6.The Command Headline boldly tells the reader what he needs to do, such as Exxon’s old
Put a Tiger In Your Tank campaign slogan. The first word should be a strong verb demanding action, such as Subscribe, Enter, Hurry…
7. Another effective technique is the Reason Why Headline. Your body text consists of a numbered list of product features or tips, your headline then would state how many tips or reasons you’ll be giving
Ten Tips On How To Set Up Your VCR.
8. The Testimonial Headline, presents outside proof that you offer great value. It takes what someone else has said about you, your product or service, and uses their actual words in your headline. Quotation marks let the reader know that they are reading a testimonial, which will continue in the body copy. An example might be
“I Read The Wall Street Journal As Soon As It Arrives,” States
Subscriber Jane Doe.
9 . A Point of View Statement Headline is where you make a statement that you will prove or disprove.
The Impact Of 9/11 Is Fading From Our Consciousness, was what I used for my book press release and addressed it’s validity in the body copy.
I write headlines for 3 e-newsletters and the ones that get the most click throughs are the short, clear, benefits implied ones. Remember, you can have great copy, but if no one reads it, it is worthless and in some cases money thrown away.
Now for a bonus…instead of presenting some dry examples to get these points across, I’ll share with you some really badly written, weird headlines that will leave you laughing hysterically.
Click here to read "Words That Never Should Have Been
© 2007 Leona M Seufert